Australia's love affair with champagne continues to grow despite a global downturn in sales.
Australians have long enjoyed a celebratory glass of champagne but bubbly sales have gone through the roof in the past few years.
Australia imported a record 5.4 million bottles of champagne in 2012, to become the world's 7th biggest market for the French sparkling wine and a bright spot in a year when global sales fell by 4.4 per cent.
Industry body Champagne Bureau said Australia's annual growth rate of 11.2 per cent was the fastest growth rate of all its import markets, and marked three consecutive years of sales growth down under.
And it pushed Australia up one notch of the top 10 importers of champagne, ahead of Switzerland, Spain and Sweden.
Australia's strong economy and the higher purchasing power of the Australian dollar are believed to be underpinning growth in champagne sales.
Although it is difficult to measure recent price cuts, retail prices for champagne are estimated to have fallen by about 30 per cent, with major brands such as Moët & Chandon and Mumm falling below $50 a bottle in some cases. Increased affordability is in turn believed to be boosting demand.
The global financial crisis and European debt woes have also crimped the ability of champagne houses to charge premium export prices to markets such as Australia, industry experts say.
Elisabeth Drysdale, director of the Champagne Bureau, said: "Historically, the Australian market has always been an important one for champagne and during the last few decades, we have always been within the top 10 markets in the world.
"I really believe that Australians are an educated wine market and increasingly understand the differences between champagne and sparkling wine.
"The high Australian dollar also has contributed to price competitiveness in the market."
There are suggestions the number of champagne sales might well be much higher than 5.4 million recorded last year.
The Champagne Bureau figures cover exports from Champagne to Australia only, excluding the practice of parallel importing, in which retailers cut costs by bypassing the the local licensees of the products and source them instead from third parties in countries such as Malaysia and Brazil.
The total value of champagne imports to Australia last year was €76.84 million, or $95.85 million, the Champagne Bureau said.
Retail giants Woolworths and Wesfarmers, which account for the bulk of alcohol sales in Australia, did not respond to requests for comment.
TOP 10 IMPORT MARKETS FOR CHAMPAGNE
1) United Kingdom
2) United States